From automated data collection to process automation
Data is valuable in many ways, including process automation. Many automation solutions, which are still in full working order today, offer companies room for improvement through the continuous development of systems that can collect data from the field, process it and then use it to increase production efficiency.
New technologies offer opportunities to capitalize on existing data and collect new data to transform it into incremental value for the company.
The "raw" data(what can be collected at any point of a production line,which alone would be insignificant), if combined with other data and interpreted with contextual logic, becomes significant for the entire system (plant, line or entire factory).
Moreover, if the set of collected data is analyzed on a historical time axis, it is possible to identify additional information that is absolutely important and can offer significant opportunities for efficiency improvement.
IoT: Internet of Things, the ally of analytics
Thanks to the modern industrial idea of the Internet of Things (IoT), real-time analytics can be leveraged to use the data that a plant's machines produce. This allows a company to surface important information that can be used to make decisions about the plant that can optimize its efficiency and productivity.
In process automation, knowing whether a machine is running or not is certainly important, but understanding how it is running and measuring its performance against a specific set of benchmarks is definitely relevant, especially from a prevention perspective. The availability of digital information related to plants and machines(Digital Twin, also opens up further advantages: simulation of the production process to assess in advance any positive or negative impact of specific environmental conditions or configuration of machines and plants; prototype evaluation to accelerate the design process of new plants and at the same time reduce implementation costs.
Through data analysis it is therefore possible to realize, for example, that the operation of a single machine is creating inefficiency on the entire line and therefore on the entire production process..
The fundamental index to refer to is the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness): a global indicator of production efficiency that represents the performance of a resource or a set of resources, whether human or technical, during the time in which they are available to produce. OEE can be calculated in different ways, depending on the type of plant and process considered, and the machines that make it up.
The OEE calculated for each process unit can be broken down into three parts:
- Availability: percentage of time the unit is available for processing;
- Performance:: production speed in relation to the expected speed;
- Quality: percentage of products according to specifications compared to the products started to be processed.
There are many benefits to be gained from calculating and monitoring OEE:
- Improvement of key production and economic drivers: yields, production, energy, quality;
- Maximization of productivity by reducing cycle times and decreasing downtime;
- Ability to identify correlations between particular products, processes, machinery and performance losses;
- Training of operators in continuous improvement with focus on the concepts of availability, performance and quality.
L OEE is a fundamental parameter in production, but if we analyze in detail the elements that compose it and the indication it provides, it is easy to understand that similar concepts can also be applied in environments that are not necessarily productive.
Being able to measure the level of performance of a machine that deals with sorting or a complex handling line where several conveyor belts and various sensors deal with the automated handling of parcels, becomes essential to be able to efficiently orchestrate the automation of intra-logistics processes.
Also in the airport sector many of the parameters that are used to calculate OEE find their applicability. BHS (Baggage Handling System) systems, for example, must not only deal with sorting and handling a large number of baggages of different weights and sizes, but must also carry out certain controls and manage handling logics that have the aim not only of managing the flow in the shortest possible time, but also of ensuring the correct execution of all useful controls in full respect of time, all while ensuring the highest level of security. sistemi di BHS (Baggage Handling System) per esempio, non devono occuparsi solo di smistare e movimentare un numero importante di bagagli di pesi e misure differenti, ma devono anche svolgere determinati controlli e gestire logiche di movimentazione che non hanno il solo scopo di gestire il flusso nel minor tempo possibile, ma assicurare nel pieno rispetto dei tempi la corretta esecuzione di tutti i controlli utili, il tutto assicurando il massimo livello di sicurezza.
Knowing how to combine the ability to integrate technologies and systems in the field with the competence to design and implement software platforms for processing the data collected, is therefore a key element in helping companies to develop tools capable of governing their value chain.